June 30, 2016

Inshaʼ

This calligraphic fragment belongs to a series of 22 inshaʼ (literary compositions or letters) written by calligraphers named Mir Kalan, Khan Zaman (son of Khan Khanan), Qaʼim Khan, Lutfallah Khan, and Mahabat Khan. Judging from the script (Indian nastaʻliq), a seal impression bearing the date 1113 AH (1701−2), and a letter mentioning the city of Janpur in India, it appears that these writings were executed in India during the 18th century. Furthermore, if one were to identify the calligrapher Mir Kalan as the renowned painter active during the mid-18th century in Lucknow, then this identification would add further support to identifying this calligraphic series in the Library of Congress’ collection as a corpus of materials produced by several writers active in 18th-century India. The calligraphies are typically written in a hasty nastaʻliq on white paper, framed in blue, and pasted to a pink or salmon cardboard. They stand out for being in rather poor condition, in many cases badly damaged by worm holes and/or water stains. Some bear squiggle-like marks in the margins, while others include seal impressions that were cut out and pasted onto the cardboards. In most cases, an attribution to a calligrapher is written at the top, preceded by the expression raqamahu (written by) or khatt-i (the handwriting of). The recto of this particular calligraphic fragment is attributed to Khan Zaman on the top horizontal, although the attribution note is quite damaged. In the lower-right margin appears a squiggle motif and some hasty inscriptions. The main text, written in black ink on white paper, is addressed to the writer’s baradar-i mahraban-i man (dear brother or friend). The writer states that he is well, that he received the latter’s letter, and that he hopes to see him soon. The note at the top of the verso of this calligraphic fragment attributes the khatt (writing) to Khan Zaman. The main text, written in black ink on a white paper, consists of the writer’s letter to his dear friend or brother. He states that he is happy to have received his letter and that he now writes back with ishtiyaq (great joy). He also hopes for further continued contact.

"Muraqqaʻ" (Album) of Poetical Excerpts

This calligraphic sample from a muraqqaʻ (album) of calligraphies includes poetical verses composed by the poets Zahir Faryabi (died 1201 or 1202), Shaykh Abu al-Fayz ibn Mubarak Fayzi (known as Fayzi, died circa 1595), Khwaja Afzal-i Taraka (died 1185), and Asiriddini Akhsikati (circa 1126‒circa 1181). Their names are picked out in gold ink and are followed by their respective verses, which are chosen for their thematic unity. The verses all describe the power of ‘ishq (love) and its rewards. In the right column, a rubaʻi (iambic pentameter quatrain), by Shaykh Fayzi Hindi written in diagonal describes the effects of love. Another of his love quatrains appears on the main text panel on the fragment’s recto. The verses are executed in black nastaʻliq script written diagonally on a cream-colored paper and horizontally on panels made of beige paper. Corners created by the intersection of the diagonal verses and the horizontal and vertical frames are filled with illuminated triangular panels. The text panel is framed by borders of various colors and pasted to a larger sheet of beige paper decorated with various vegetal and geometric motifs painted in gold. The verso of this folio from an album (muraqqaʻ) of calligraphies includes excerpts by the poets Fayzi, Mawlana Baqiri (Muhammad ibn ʿUmar al-Baqari, 1609‒1700), and (Muhammad Husayn) Chalabi Tabrizi (17th century). The names of the three poets are picked out in red ink on the folio and are followed by their respective poetical verses. In the center of the text panel appears one rubaʻi, and two tak bayt (single verses) by the Deccani poet Fayzi. The quatrain describes a lover’s enchantment at his beloved's face, which entices him to look at it again and again. It reads: “Oh God, how do you appear when my eye looks upon your face / By every glance it (my eye) is beguiled to take another look / Oh, from the lie of procrastination at the foot of deceit / On tomorrow’s Day of Gathering, she searches for another tomorrow.” The verses are written in black nastaʻliq script on a blue paper decorated with leaf motifs painted in gold. Verses also form registers around the central text panel, separated by squares filled with decorative motifs in blue or gold. The entire text panel is pasted to a larger cream-colored sheet decorated with painted gold flowers and backed by cardboard. In the lower-left corner of the panel containing the diagonal verses by Fayzi, the calligapher Mirza Quli Mayli has signed his work with his name inscribed vertically. He was most likely a calligrapher active in Persia (Iran) during the 17th or 18th century.

Rubaʻis by Hafiz

This calligraphic fragment includes three rubaʻiyat (iambic pentameter quatrains) arranged in corresponding vertical and horizontal panels. The verses written diagonally in the upper-right corner describe the duplicity of humankind: “(Bad deeds) have a very strange adjective / This bizarre Satan that eats people / Most people are cannibals / You are not safe when they greet you.” Another quatrain by the Persian poet Hafiz (died 1388‒89, 791 AH) is inscribed in vertical panels, the last two verses of which appear on a background painted with gold leaves. This quatrain describes respect owed to one’s superiors: “My heart is in your house of love / (My) eye is the mirror that reflects your brilliance / I, who do not prostrate myself to the two worlds, / My neck is under the weight of your favor.” The verses are executed in black nastaʻliq script in independent registers on a background decorated with illuminated triangular and rectangular panels. The entirety of the text panel is pasted to a larger sheet of beige paper decorated with light-blue vegetal motifs. The fragment is neither dated nor signed. However, it appears to have been produced in Iran in the 16th or 17th centuries and placed later into a muraqqaʻ (album) of calligraphies.

Inshaʼ

This calligraphic fragment belongs to a series of 22 inshaʼ (literary compositions or letters) written by calligraphers named Mir Kalan, Khan Zaman (son of Khan Khanan), Qaʼim Khan, Lutfallah Khan, and Mahabat Khan. Judging from the script (Indian nastaʻliq), a seal impression bearing the date 1113 AH (1701−2), and a letter mentioning the city of Janpur in India, it appears that these writings were executed in India during the 18th century. Furthermore, if one were to identify the calligrapher Mir Kalan as the renowned painter active during the mid-18th century in Lucknow, then this identification would add further support to identifying this calligraphic series in the Library of Congress’ collection as a corpus of materials produced by several writers active in 18th-century India. The calligraphies are typically written in a hasty nastaʻliq on white paper, framed in blue, and pasted to a pink or salmon cardboard. They stand out for being in rather poor condition, in many cases badly damaged by worm holes and/or water stains. Some bear squiggle-like marks in the margins, while others include seal impressions that were cut out and pasted onto the cardboards. In most cases, an attribution to a calligrapher is written at the top, preceded by the expression raqamahu (written by) or khatt-i (the handwriting of). An attribution note at the top of the recto of this fragment states that this calligraphic fragment was raqamahu (written by) Qaʻim Khan. The main text, written in black ink, appears on both a white paper speckled in blue and a marble paper decorated with orange flowers and green leaves. In the center of the lower horizontal margin appears a seal impression bearing the date 1116 AH (1704‒5). At the beginning of the composition appears the phrase in praise of God Huwa al-qadir (God, the All-Powerful), followed by the writer’s letter. Here, he states that he received his friend’s letter and has wanted to write back. He is distressed that he has not heard from his friend. To make his message clear, the writer includes a bayt (verse) by Hafiz (died 1388−89, 791 AH) on separation and pain, as well as a Qurʼanic ayah (verse) stating that if someone helps others, God will help him in return. An attribution note at the top of the verso of this fragment states that this calligraphy also was written by (raqamahu) by Qaʻim Khan. The main text, written in black ink, appears on both a white paper speckled in blue and a marble paper decorated with orange flowers and green leaves. At the beginning of the composition appears the word huwa (literally, “He,” functioning as the laudatory incipit “In the Name of God”), followed by the writer’s letter to a certain Navab Sahib, stating that he is very thankful to the latter for his help, and that he is his servant and wishes to be at his side again.

Quatrain on True Knowledge

This calligraphic fragment provides a rubaʻi (iambic pentameter quatrain) written in black nastaʻliq script. The text is outlined in cloud bands filled with blue and placed on a gold background. In the upper-right corner, a gold decorative motif fills in the triangular space otherwise left empty by the intersection of the rectangular frame and the diagonal lines of text. The verses read “I arrived at a worshipper’s in the area of Baylaqan. / I said: ‘With tutoring purify me from ignorance.’ / He said: ‘Oh, Thoughtful One, go, because, like the earth, you can withstand all, / Or bury everything that you have read under the soil.’” These verses show how the poet sought out tarbiyat (spiritual teaching or tutoring) from a wise man, who responded that learned knowledge may be cast aside. Baylaqan (present-day Beylagan, Azerbaijan) was a city known for its purifying waters. Below the quatrain, the calligrapher, (Mir) ʻImad al-Hasani, has signed his work with his name and a request for God’s forgiveness. Mir ʻImad was born in 1552, spent time in Herat and Qazvin, and finally settled in Isfahan (then capital of Safavid Persia), where, as a result of his implication in court intrigues, he was murdered in 1615. He was a master of nastaʻliq script, whose works were admired and copied by his contemporaries and later collected by the Mughals. Many works in international collections are signed by him, although whether all these pieces are really by his hand remains uncertain.

The Battle of Mazandaran from "Hamzahnamah"

This large-scale painting depicts the Battle of Mazandaran, an event in the Persian romance of the mythical adventures and battles of Amir Hamzah, the uncle of the Prophet Muhammad, recorded in the famous Hamzahnamah (Book of Hamzah). The Hamzahnamah was begun around 1564 under the sponsorship of the Mughal emperor Akbar (ruled 1556‒1605) and was completed in approximately 15 years. This painting is number 38 in the seventh volume of the Hamzahnamah, as inscribed between the legs of the man in the bottom center. It depicts a battle scene in which the protagonists Khwajah ʻUmar and Hamzah, nicknamed Sahib Qiran (Owner of the Epochs), and their armies engage in a fierce battle. Originally, the faces were depicted, subsequently erased by iconoclasts, and repainted in more recent times. Only the face of the groom wearing an orange turban in the center of the left edge has been left untouched. Immediately above this figure, a soldier in a studded gold tunic has a disjointed face, revealing how an old border was removed and faces retouched. Approximately 50 painters worked on the project under the supervision of the famous artists Mir Sayyid ʻAli and ʻAbd al-Samad, who both had worked circa 1522‒35 on the royal Shahnamah of the Safavid ruler Shah Tahmasp. Although a number of the paintings are linked to specific artists, this particular one does not bear an attribution mark. The large-scale text panel on the verso describes the Battle of Mazandaran. The text is executed in black nastaʻliq script on a large beige sheet of paper that bears substantial water damage. The last three lines also exhibit the crowded writing that is seen frequently in the manuscript as the scribe or scribes struggled to fit the complete the narrative account on each text page.